RE: HPB on herself
Nov 17, 2004 04:18 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
Nov 17 2004
In LUCIFER, December 1893 the following article was published:
"BLAVATSKIANISM" IN AND OUT OF SEASON
THEOSOPHISTS! let us consult together. Let us survey the army, the field of
battle, and the fighters. Let us examine our ways and our speech, so that we
may know what we are doing in this great affray which may last for ages and
in which every act has a future.
What do we see? A Theosophical Society struggling as a whole against the
world. A few devoted members struggling against the world and some opponents
within its ranks.
A Society grown to its eighteenth year, after the expenditure of much time
and energy and fame by those who have been with it in infancy, those who
have come in from time to time, those who worked and left it for this
generation. It has its karma like any other body, for it is a living thing
and not a mere paper organization; and with that karma is also woven the
karma of the units composing it.
How does it live and grow? Not alone by study and work, but by propriety of
method of work; by due attention paid by the members to thought and speech
in their theosophic promulgations.
Wise workers, like wise generals, survey the field now and then to see if
their methods are good or bad, even though fully convinced of the nobility
and righteousness of their cause; they trust not only to the virtue of their
aim and work, but attend to any defects now and then indicated by the
assaults of the enemy; they listen to warnings of those who see or think
they see errors of omission and commission. Let us all do this.
It happens to be the fact that most of those who work the hardest for the
Society are at the same time devoted disciples, open or non-professed, of
H.P. Blavatsky, but that leaves still a large number of members who, with
the first-named, may be variously classified.
First, there are those who do not rely at all on H.P. Blavatsky, while not
distinctly opposed and none the less good members.
Next are those who are openly opposed to her name and fame, who, while
reading her works and profiting by them as well as by the work aroused by
her in others, are averse from hearing her name, oppose the free assertion
of devotion to her, would like now and then to have Theosophy stripped of
her altogether, and opine that many good and true possible members are kept
away from the T.S. by her personality's being bound up in it. The two last
things of course are impossible to meet, because if it had not been for her
the Theosophical Society with its literature would not have come into
Lastly are those in the world who do not belong to our ranks, composed of
persons holding in respect to the T.S. the various positions of for,
against, and indifferent.
The active workers may be again divided as follows:
(a) Moderate ones, good thinkers who present their thoughts in words that
show independent and original thought on theosophical subjects, thus not
referring to authority, yet who are earnest, devoted and loyal.
(b) Those who are earnest, devoted and loyal, but present Theosophy more or
less as quotations from H.P.B.'s writings, constantly naming and always
referring their thoughts and conclusions to her, thus appearing to present
Theosophy as solely based on her as an authority.
(c) The over-zealous who err like the former, and, in addition, too
frequently and out of place and time, bring forward the name of H.P.
Blavatsky; often relating what it was supposed she had done or not done, and
what she said, attributing infallibility to her either directly or by
indirection; thus arousing an opposition that is added to any impression of
dogmatism or authority produced by other members.
(d) Believers in phenomena who give prominence to the wonders said to have
been performed by H.P. Blavatsky; who accentuate the value of the whole
field of occult phenomena, and sincerely supposing, however mistaken the
notion, that occult and psychical phenomena will arrest attention, draw out
interest, inspire confidence; when, in fact, the almost certain results are,
to first arouse curiosity, then create distrust and disappointment; for
nearly every one is a doubting Thomas who requires, while the desire cannot
be satisfied, a duplicate of every phenomenon for himself.
In The Occult World, the Adept writing on this very subject says that the
demand for new phenomena would go on crescendo until at last one would be
crushed by doubt, or the other and worse result of creating superstition and
blind faith would come about. Every thoughtful person must surely see that
such must be the consequence.
It is true that the movement has grown most in consequence of the effort of
those who are devoted to an ideal, inspired by enthusiasm, filled with a
lasting gratitude to H.P. Blavatsky.
Their ideal is the service of Humanity, the ultimate potential
perfectibility of man as exemplified by the Masters and Adepts of all ages,
including the present.
Their enthusiasm is born from the devotion which the ideal arouses, their
gratitude is a noble quality engendered by the untiring zeal of the soul who
brought to their attention the priceless gems of the wisdom religion.
Ingratitude is the basest vice of which man can be guilty, and it will be
base for them to receive the grand message and despise the messenger.
But does devotion, loyalty, or gratitude require that we should thrust our
estimate of a person forward to the attention of the public in a way that is
certain to bring on opposition? Should our work in a great movement, meant
to include all men, intended to condense the truth from all religions, be
impeded or imperiled by over-zealous personal loyalty?
I think not. We should be wise as serpents.
Wisdom does not consist in throwing the object of our heart's gratitude in
the faces of those who have no similar feeling, for when we do that it may
easily result that personal considerations will nullify our efforts for the
good of those we address.
Now it is charged in several quarters that we are dogmatic as a Society.
This is extremely easy of disproof as a fact, and some trouble has been
taken to disprove it. But is there not a danger that we might go too far on
this line, and by continuing the disproof too long increase the very belief
which we say is baseless? "The more proof offered the less believed" is how
Our constitution is the supreme law. Its being non-dogmatic is proof enough.
Years of notification on almost every document have prepared the proofs
which every one can see. I would seem that enough has been said on the
subject of our non-dogmatism.
But the charge then is altered, and "dogmatism" is supplanted by
"Blavatskianism," and here the critics have a slight ground to stand on;
here is where a danger may exist and where the generals, the captains, the
whole army, should properly pay attention and be on their guard. In the
words and methods of the various classes of members above mentioned is the
cause for the charge.
I am not directing any remarks to the question whether members "believe in
Blavatsky or not," for the charge made is intended to imply that there is
too much said about H.P. Blavatsky as authority, as source, as guide, too
little original thinking, too much reliance on the words of a single person.
In the years that are gone, necessity existed for repelling mean personal
attacks on H.P. Blavatsky's character. To take up arms in her behalf then
was wise. Now her works remain. The necessity for constant repulse of
attacks on her does not exist. Judgment can be used in doing so. Loyalty is
not thrown to the winds when good judgment says there is no need to reply.
One of the best replies is to carry on the work in the noble and altruistic
spirit she always pointed out.
Take, for instance, the almost senile attacks periodically made by the
Society for Psychical Research. What good can be possibly accomplished by
paying any attention to them? None at all, except what results to that body
by inflating it with the idea that its shafts have hit a vulnerable spot.
Ever since their ex post facto agent went to India to play at psychical
investigation they have almost lived by their attacks, for by them, more
than anything else, they gain some attention; her personality, even to this
day, adds spice to their wide-of-the-mark discussions.
Even at the Chicago World's Congresses their discussions were mostly given
up to re-hashing the same stories, as if they were proud that, even though
they knew nothing of psychic law, they had at least discovered one human
being whose nature they could not fathom, and desired to for ever parade her
with the various labels their fancy suggested.
But in districts or new publications, where a new attack is made, good
judgment may suggest an answer bringing up the statement of charges and
copiousness of former answers.
Now our work goes on in meetings, in publications, in discussions, and here
is where the old idea of repelling attack may run into an unnecessary parade
of the person to whom in heart we are loyal, while at the same time the
voluminousness of her writings is often an excuse for not investigating for
oneself, and this leads to quoting her too frequently by name as authority.
She never claimed authority, but, contrariwise, disclaimed it.
But few of the theories broached by her were new to our day, albeit those
are the key-ideas. Yet these very key-ideas are not those on which the
quotations and personal references to her are made so often.
She neither invented, nor claimed as new, the doctrines of Karma,
Reincarnation, Devachan, Cycles, and the like.
These are all exhaustively treated in various literatures - Buddhistic,
Jain, Brahmanical, Zoroastrian.
They are capable, like all theosophic doctrines, of independent examination,
of philosophical, logical, and analogical proof.
But, if we state them parrot-like, and then bring forward a quotation from
H.P. Blavatsky to prove them, has not an opponent, has not any one, member
or non-member, a right to say that the offending person is not doing
independent thinking, is not holding a belief after due consideration, but
is merely acting blindly on faith in matters where blind faith is not
required? And if many members do the same thing, it is quite natural that a
cry should be raised by some one of "Blavatskianism."
If this were an age in the West when any respect or reverence existed as a
general thing in the people, the sayings of a sage could be quoted as
authority. But it is not such an age. Reverence is paralyzed for a time, and
the words of a sage are of no moment as such. H.P. Blavatsky came in this
irreverent time, holding herself only as a messenger and indicator, not as a
sage pure and simple.
Hence to merely quote her words out of due place will but arouse a needless
irritation. It may indicate in oneself a failure to think out the problem
independently, an absence of diligence in working out our own salvation in
the way directed by Gautama Buddha. What, then, are the right times and
places, and which are out of place and time?
When the assembly and the subject are both meant to deal with the life and
works of H.P. Blavatsky, then it is right and proper and wise to speak of
her and her works, her acts, and words. If one is dealing with an analysis
or compilation of her writings on any subject, then must she and what she
wrote be used, named and quoted.
But even at those times her words should not be quoted as and for authority,
inasmuch as she said they were not. Those who consider them to be authority
will quickly enough accept them. As she never put forward anything as
original investigation of hers in the realm of science, in the line of
experiments in hypnotism, in clairvoyance, mind-reading, or the like, we
ought to be careful how and when we bring her statements forward to an
But in an assembly of members coming together to discuss theosophical
doctrines in general, say such as Karma, Reincarnation, the Septenary
Constitution, and the like, it is certainly unwise to give quotation after
quotation from H.P. Blavatsky's works on the matter in hand.
This is not fair to the hearers, and it shows only a power of memory or
compilation that argues nothing as to the comprehension of the subject on
the reader's part. It is very easy to compile, to quote sentence after
sentence, to weave a long series of extracts together, but it is not
progress, nor independence, nor wisdom. On the other hand, it is a complete
nullification of the life-work of the one who has directed us to the path;
it is contrary to the spirit and genius of the Society.
And if in such an assembly much time is given to recounting phenomena
performed by H.P.B., or telling how she once said this and at another time
did that, the time is out of joint with the remarks.
Meetings of branches are meant for giving to the members and enquirers a
knowledge of theosophical doctrines by which alone true progress is to come
to our movement.
New and good members are constantly needed; they cannot be fished out of the
sea of enquirers by such a process as the personal history of anyone, they
cannot be retained by relations of matters that do not teach them the true
aim and philosophy of life, they will be driven off if assailed with
If there is power in a grateful loyalty to H.P. Blavatsky, as for my part I
fully believe, it does not have its effect by being put forward all the
time, or so often as to be too noticeable, but from its depth, its true
basis, its wise foundation, its effect on our work, our act, and thought.
Hence to my mind there is no disloyalty in reserving the mention of her name
and qualities for right and timely occasions.
It is certain that as Theosophy brings forward no new system of ethics, but
only enforces the ethics always preached, the claim, if made, that our
ethics, our high endeavor, are to be found nowhere else described save in
the works left by H.P, Blavatsky, is baseless, will lead to wrong
conclusions, and bring up a reaction that no amount of argument can
No greater illustration of an old and world-wide religion can be found than
that provided by Buddhism, but what did Buddha say to his disciples when
they brought up the question of the honours to be paid to his remains? He
told them not to hinder themselves about it, not to dwell on it, but "to
work out their own salvation with diligence." [See the Mahâparinibbana
That the views held by H.P. Blavatsky herself coincided with this can be
seen by reading the pamphlet entitled "The Theosophical Society and H.P.B."
being a reprint of articles that appeared in LUCIFER of December, 1890. She
requested the reprint, and some of her notes are appended to the articles.
William Q. Judge
Lucifer, December, 1893
Dear Friend P...:
Thanks for sending us her own evaluation:
HPB ON AUTHORITY and HER POSITION
The following passages from the “H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings” present
HPB speaking about herself and may give an insight into what motivated her
and how she related to “AUTHORITY.”
“And here a slight digression must come in. We are sure to be told by some,
that this is precisely the objection taken to theosophical expositions, from
Isis Unveiled down to The Secret Doctrine.
Agreed. We are quite prepared to confess that the latter work, especially,
surpasses in these defects all the other theosophical works. We are quite
ready to admit the faults charged against it by its critics—that it is badly
arranged, discursive, over-burdened with digressions into by-ways of
mythology, etc., etc.
But then it is neither a philosophical system nor the Doctrine, called
secret or esoteric, but only a record of a few of its facts and a witness to
it. It has never claimed to be the full exposition of the system (it
advocates) in its totality;
(a) because as the writer does not boast of being a great Initiate, she
could, therefore, never have undertaken such a gigantic task; and
(b) because had she been one, she would have divulged still less. It has
never been contemplated to make of the sacred truths an integral system for
the ribaldry and sneers of a profane and iconoclastic public.
The work does not pretend to set up a series of explanations, complete in
all their details, of the mysteries of Being; nor does it seek to win for
itself the name of a distinct system of thought—like the works of Messrs.
Herbert Spencer, Schopenhauer or Comte.
On the contrary, The Secret Doctrine merely asserts that a system, known as
the WISDOM-RELIGION, the work of generations of adepts and seers, the sacred
heirloom of pre-historic times—actually exists, though hitherto preservedin
the greatest secrecy by the present Initiates; and it points to
various corroborations of its existence to this very day, to be found in
ancient and modern works.”
(Blavatsky: COLLECTED WORKS Vol. XIII, p. 93)
“Holding Gautama Buddha higher in my veneration than any other religious
teacher the world over, I yet publicly, and notwithstanding Buddhist
opposition to the Hindu Scriptures—profess a profound admiration for the
Vedas and the Vedanta teaching, simply because I claim an undeniable right
of thinking for myself, untrammelled by any divine or human teacher or
teaching.” (Blavatsky: COLLECTED WORKS Vol. III, p. 310)
“The pagani or pagans may have been ignoramuses in the eyes of those more
ignorant than themselves—those who accepted for coined money the ass
of Balaam, the whale of Jonah, and the snake that walked on its tail—but
they were not more ignorant for all that. As the most serious books speak of
Plato, Homer, Pythagoras, Virgil, etc., etc., under the name of “pagan
philosophers and poets,” the Adepts are found in good company. The little
lesson is as useless as it is far-fetched. I am a pagan to the Christians,
and I am proud of it. I have said it elsewhere: I far prefer to be a pagan
with Plato and Pythagoras, than a Christian with the Popes.
—H. P. BLAVATSKY.”
(Blavatsky: COLLECTED WORKS , Vol. IX, p. 386 fn.)
“And now a few words more before I close. I will be asked: “And who areyou
to find fault with us? Are you, who claim nevertheless, communion with the
Masters and receive daily favors from Them; Are you so holy, faultless, and
To this I answer: I AM NOT.
Imperfect and faulty is my nature; many and glaring are my shortcomings—and
for this my Karma is heavier than that of any other Theosophist.
It is—and must be so––since for so many years I stand set in the pillory, a
target for my enemies and some friends also. Yet I accept the trial
Why? Because I know that I have, all my faults notwithstanding, Master’s
protection extended over me. And if I have it, the reason for it is simply
this: for thirty-five years and more, ever since 1851 that I saw my Master
bodily and personally for the first time, I have never once denied or even
doubted Him, not even in thought. Never a reproach or a murmur against Him
has escaped my lips, or entered even my brain for one instant under the
>From the first I knew what I had to expect, for I was told that, which I
have never ceased repeating to others: as soon as one steps on the Path
leading to the Ashrum of the blessed Masters—the last and only custodiansof
primitive Wisdom and Truth—his Karma, instead of having to be distributed
throughout his long life, falls upon him in a block and crushes him with its
He who believes in what he professes and in his Master, will stand it and
come out of the trial victorious; he who doubts, the coward who fears to
receive his just dues and tries to avoid justice being
done—FAILS. He will not escape.”
(Blavatsky: COLLECTED WORKS, Vol. VII, p. 247)
Best wishes to all
Nov 17 2004
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